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Cannabis: A look at sweeping global change

Paper by a working party led by Simon Randall and Ashley Blood-Halvorsen

The question of whether or not cannabis should be legalised has been much discussed, not least during the recent leadership election. The debate has raged around the recent legalisation of cannabis in Canada, distressing stories about young people suffering epileptic seizures where cannabis oil seems the most appropriate treatment and the growing interest among investors in promoting farming of cannabis-based products.


This pamphlet is the fruit of considerable research by a working party of the Society. They have examined in some detail the most recent policies of a range of countries in their attitude to cannabis, including Canada, a number of states within the US, the Netherlands and the UK. The academic material which has been studied has ranged over the fields of medicine, pharmacology and criminology as well as law.


The recommendations in the pamphlet will stimulate discussion as to the way forward. In particular, the working party recommends that the UK learns lessons from other comparable jurisdictions. The key recommendations are policies of:


  • Consideration of the de-criminalisation of possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use to protect the future prospects of youthful users, particularly in regard to employment and training

  • Incorporating non-criminal sanctions for those caught with cannabis for treatment and/or suspension of driving licence to prevent a cycle of criminal behaviour

  • Shifting discourse towards a public health initiative to reduce addiction and raise awareness of the dangers through guidance

  • Permitting medical cannabis for therapeutic use when recommended by a physician and the speeding up of the current review


The major theme running throughout this paper is a desire to protect young adults from the adverse health effects of cannabis use in a real and practical way.


Not all members of the Party or the Society will support these policies. But for any serious student of the politics of cannabis, whatever his or her individual views, this paper brings together a wealth of contemporary learning and information which will be useful.


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“The question of whether or not cannabis should be legalised has been much discussed, not least during the recent leadership election. The major theme of the report is to provide protection from the adverse health effects of cannabis use, in a realistic and practical way. I hope the paper will be a useful resource.”  

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"We do not support the legalisation of all drugs and we do not support the general legalisation of recreational cannabis use at this time, but we do believe the cannabis laws in this country require a robust examination and reform".

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